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Study: Some students not honest with prof evaluations

BY ALLIE WRIGHT | DECEMBER 16, 2010 7:10 AM

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University of Iowa sophomore Greg Rothstein said he feels it's important to tell the truth when evaluating his professors at the end of each semester.

"I'm going to be honest if I feel like a teacher is actually going to look at them and if they take into account what students say," he said.

But not all students are always truthful with their responses.

Dennis Clayson, a professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa, conducted a study to find out how honest students were being while filling out teacher evaluations.

"In some cases, they are extremely unfair and in some cases, they are right on," he said.

His study will be published in Marketing Education Review in the spring.

Clayson, who said he has studied evaluations since 1990 and has seen literally thousands, said he has seen comments on both sides of the spectrum.

"Students are probably giving too high of evaluations," he said. "You get comments such as, 'You were one of the best professors I've ever had.' "

Clayson also said some of the worst comments he's ever seen included: "Die, you son of a bitch"; "She's a weird bitch"; and students making fun of a professor solely because of his accent.

The largest factor students take into account when filling out evaluations is personality, he said.
UI Professor of psychology Michael O'Hara said he appreciates the feedback students give him on evaluations.

"It makes a great deal of sense to evaluate the faculty teaching," he said. "If students are the consumers, and students have important information to provide back to the faculty member and to others, and if the items are good items that are relevant to the goals of the institution, course, and professor, it makes a great deal of sense."

O'Hara said while evaluations are important, the course's textbook and syllabus should also be taken into account on whether or not a student is fully satisfied.

Wanda Osborn, a project assistant in communication studies at the UI, said teacher evaluations provide valuable information to faculty members.

"There would be no advantage for students to give anything other than honest feedback," she said.

Osborn said the evaluations are done in confidence and confidentiality, and none of the professors or teaching assistants ever see the results until after students grades are posted.

UI sophomore Riley Schmitt is skeptical about the process.

"Half the time, I really don't fill it out seriously," he said. "A lot of the time, I think the evaluations are a waste of time, and I don't think they have any major effect on anything."


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